The self-paced, online learning market has been projected to reach $1.96 Billion in India by 2021 with a CAGR of almost 64%. At the same time, student adoption of tablets and smartphones has increased rapidly compared to earlier years. How do colleges and educational institutions keep pace with these trends and provide students the facility to learn at their pace, their place and on their device of choice?

Many institutions in India have adopted digital learning systems to supplement their classrooms. Effective video & audio capture and webcast of lectures in multimedia format is the key to their success. There are several components for a successful implementation of a Digital Learning System in an educational institution.

There are several components for a successful implementation of a Digital Learning System in an educational institution.

1.The Smart Classroom

2.The Virtual Classroom

3.Lecture Capture for Curriculum Development

4.Operation Theatre Recording and broadcasting 

But how do you keep the students engaged in a webcast? How can you combine different sources of information – like videos from the internet, info-graphics, presentations and the capture of the lecture itself? How do you store these lectures and make them available for students to view on-demand? How do you share it with other colleges within your network?

In the article below, I have sought to share my experience with you – experience that has come from implementing Smart and Virtual classrooms for a number of colleges and universities across India.This is the first of a series of articles I am writing on how classrooms, capabilities are undergoing radical changes in India – brought about by advances in technology.

1.The smart classroom

The world has moved away from blackboards long back. Whiteboards ensured a cleaner and healthier classroom environment. However, many universities have taken a giant leap forward and have implemented Smart Classrooms. These Universities are redefining the way students and instructors engage with each other and the way lectures are delivered. The instructor uses a smart station which not only helps deliver the lecture but also includes presentations, videos and info-graphics. Smart stations are a combination of various cutting edge technologies like LED displays, Smart/ Interactive Boards, Projectors and Audio systems. This ensures that the lectures are more interesting and captivating. Instructors can now deliver lectures that combine multiple sources of content. It has been found that students respond better to video clips and info-graphics and retain information better.

  • Students become active participants in the lecture rather than passive observers. With tablets and laptops, students can actually share their own presentations and observations with the entire class. Multiple students can respond to instructor questions in real time. It becomes a tool for assessment of learning and therefore, improvement. By making the class more interactive, the student’s attention span increases, thereby making optimum use of the entire duration of the lecture.
  • Audio systems in Smart Classrooms change the way lectures are delivered. With microphones and speakers, instructors can now deliver lectures in a normal voice, decreasing instructor fatigue. Long discussions are no longer a challenge since the lecturer does not have the strain of ensuring that even the backbenchers are able to hear the instructions clearly.

2.The Virtual Classroom

Today, one of the challenges faced by educational institutions is the availability of senior guest faculty – experts. With limitations in lecture hall space and availability of all students at a given time, colleges have started adopting the Virtual Classroom. While Smart Classrooms have ensured that lectures are captivating and interactive, Virtual Classrooms ensure that these lectures are available to a larger audience – both live and on-demand

There are three distinct features that you should look at implementing while deploying a Virtual Classroom.

  • Interaction with all live viewers: an effective Virtual Classroom allows students in remote locations can interact with instructors just as they would if they were present on-location.  Speakers located strategically relay their questions to the classroom.  The instructor can also view the students asking the question on a LCD TV.  Remote students can also give their feedback and make their own presentations just as a in-classroom student would. 
  • Lecture capture: Hi-definition cameras in Classrooms capture high resolution videos of the lecture.  The audio, presentations and info-graphics from the Smart Classroom system is integrated into the video to make the experience complete for the remote student.
  • The infrastructure:  Once captured on video, lectures can be transmitted to viewers across the globe.  However, the way this is done is extremely crucial.  Given the state of the internet in India today, only systems that utilize extremely low bandwidth will succeed.  Unless careful attention is paid to this while choosing your Smart Virtual Classroom, the project will die before it takes off. 

In conclusion – by implementing a Smart Virtual Classroom, colleges can not only develop their curriculum by creating a library of lectures and reach out to more students, but also make lecture webcasts interesting and interactive.